Review: Samurai Jack -- Code of the Samurai

 

Fans of Genndy Tartakovsky's "Samurai Jack," which wrapped last year on the Cartoon Network, enjoy the quirky storytelling and stunning visuals, also the martial arts sequences. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before the online gaming industry turned the time-traveling samurai's adventures into video games.

I haven't tried any of the games available for gaming console systems, confining my efforts instead to Cartoon Network's own Web Site. Its Games section features six games based on "Samurai Jack," including "The Way of the Warrior," in which the young samurai trains through several simulations for his eventual battle with the shape-shifting evil sorcerer Aku (deliciously voiced by veteran actor Mako in the series and console games).

The other games invariably feature Jack battling Aku's minions--robots, beetle insects, and the like. Two of the games feature a final showdown with Aku.

"Code of the Samurai" was a tie-in with a Samurai Jack marathon, so when you access the game, the interface asks you "Enter Code or Play." I advise pushing Play since the original marathon was two years ago.

Once you get into the game, you have to fight through three treacherous levels before you even get to Aku.

The first level features crumbling ledges, motorized spikes, machine-gun fire as you ride rock lifts up mountains, and of course, the inevitable baddies waiting to attack you. Tip: When riding the rock lifts, duck and jump to avoid the machine gun fire. Seize the opportunity when the second lift descends or ascends close to the lift you're on, otherwise you'll have to avoid the gunfire until the lift comes back within reach. The level features two lift challenges, all with a computerized attacker waiting at the top of the cliff.

The creatures on all three levels are adversaries that fans of "Samurai Jack" will recognize: zombie warriors, Terminator-style robots who look like they have baskets on their heads, and Aku's minions that turn into vapor when you attack them.

Tip: Try whenever possible to hit the targets with a good quick thrust of Jack's katana. The game says other weapons are available to Jack, but for some reason you only see him use his katana. Go slow and time your attacks so that the targets can't hit you first.

Jack gets five "lives," and you can see the red meter slowly shrink as he is bombarded with digital mayhem. Try to at least hold on to the fourth "life" when getting to the second level. After you clear each level the "life" you're currently on is replenished (Jack must have been drinking his trademark green tea.) When you get to the third level, try to keep at least three "lives," although you can get away with two. You need at least two to have a chance during the final skirmish with Aku.

At the end of the first two levels you do battle with a giant adversary more powerful than the others: a skeleton warrior on the first, a basket-head warrior on the second. The good news is you can watch its "life" meter and track your progress on defeating it.

The second level is filled with gears running amuck to mow you down, blades slashing at you, and on all three levels you run the risk of falling in slime or on sharp spikes, which make you lose a life. Tip: Time your jumps to avoid the gears, but don't get too jumpy, otherwise you fall into the slime.

The third level features spikes, moving platforms and even wider jumps, if that's possible. Tip: The vapor demons can appear anywhere and are more poweerful than the adversaries in the first two levels. But this workout is just practice, flexing your muscles for the clash with Aku.

The final stage features ledges that sink into lava--you have to jump fast before you fall in. The computerized Aku is quite impressive, and just as in the series, flies off several times before Jack can deliver the final blow. But be brave, be steadfast, be victorious, and you, gamer, will defeat the evil scourge! The conclusion to the game is satisfying and delivers the anticipated emotional payoff.

 



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